Every Christmas morning while we were growing up, the first things we’d get would be our stockings, usually full of See’s Candy, little Matchbox cars, candy canes… and an orange. The orange always confused me; it seemed like a deeply incongruous piece of Healthy in the middle of an otherwise wretched morass of chocolate and refined sugar. Most of the time, we chucked the orange behind our heads and tore into our presents: a new Colecovision cartridge, maybe the football game that vibrates, or a 1980 Portable Cassette Recorder. It wasn’t until one Christmas in 1993, when I was 25 or so, that I asked why we still had oranges in our stockings.
My mom explained that when she was a child, she used to get oranges in her stockings because when her mother was little, Great Grandma Pearl did the same. They were living during the mid-19th century in dusty, ruined, high-altitude flatlands of Eastern Colorado and Utah, and apparently an orange was so coveted, so precious, and so tasty, that it would be one of